Saturday, April 25, 2015

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Straw candidates: a Miami thing

"Federal prosecutors on Friday accused former Miami Democratic Rep. Joe Garcia’s ex-chief of staff of secretly financing a ringer tea-party candidate in 2010 to draw votes away from a Republican rival — an illegal scheme that appeared to inspire a more serious copycat case two years later."

Jeffrey Garcia was charged with conspiracy to give a campaign contribution of less than $25,000, a misdemeanor offense. Prosecutors say Garcia, no relation to the former congressman, put up the $10,440 qualifying fee for the shadow candidate, Jose Rolando “Roly” Arrojo, to pose as a GOP primary challenger to David Rivera.

Arrojo was also charged Friday with the same misdemeanor.

Rivera is suspected of following a similar playbook in 2012 to prop up a Democratic candidate against Joe Garcia. Rivera has not been charged, although two others in that case — the straw candidate and Rivera’s ex-girlfriend — were convicted.

"Jeffrey Garcia himself confessed his actions to prosecutors three years after the fact, his attorney said. The charge, filed in U.S. District Court, paves the way for Garcia, 42, to surrender to authorities next week and then plead guilty in the hope of receiving a light sentence. The same outcome is likely for Arrojo, 41."
The former congressman, identified in the charging document as “Candidate A,” has long denied any involvement and has not been charged. . . .

The scale of the case pales in comparison to the one surrounding Rivera, the Republican who preceded Joe Garcia in Congress. Rivera’s ex-girlfriend, Ana Alliegro, told a grand jury that he masterminded a scheme that secretly funneled more than $81,000 to the straw candidacy of Democrat Justin Lamar Sternad in 2012. Rivera covered their tracks and helped Alliegro twice escape to Nicaragua, according to Alliegro.

Both Alliegro and Sternad served prison time. Rivera has, for now, avoided a similar fate and maintained his innocence.

"Feds charge ex-congressional chief of staff with secretly funding 2010 ringer candidate." See also "Former girlfriend testifies against ex-Rep. David Rivera, questions lack of indictment in campaign scandal" and "Federal judge calls out David Rivera, sentences Ana Alliegro to six months of house arrest."

Blue-green algae bloom

"No water will be discharged from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Canal until state agencies run tests on a possible blue-green algae bloom just outside the lake at the western end of the St. Lucie Canal, officials have confirmed." "Algae Bloom Tests Halt Lake Okeechobee Discharges into St. Lucie Canal."

Old men at work

"Abortion bill headed to Gov. Rick Scott." See also "Abortion waiting period bill goes to Gov. Scott."

"Free-market" fools

"With only a week left in the regular session, Florida lawmakers remain locked in a dispute Friday over health-care spending, putting billions of dollars on the line for hospitals and health-care access at stake for 800,000 low-income Floridians." "Talks, but no progress in health-care budget impasse." See also "Despite $600 million offer from House, Florida Senate refuses to back off Medicaid expansion."

Prison deform

"The Florida House approves a prison reform plan as lawmakers commit to creating a joint committee to finish the job." "Legislators take ownership of prison reform with new plan."

Weekly Roundup

"Weekly Roundup: Should I Stay or Should I Go?." See also "Education Week in Review: FSA Testing Glitches, Charter School Legislation."

"Lawmakers dismiss what Floridians need"

The Miami Herald editors: "State lawmakers continue to dismiss what Floridians need, want." "Misplaced priorities."

Charter madness

"A bill to allow students to cross county lines and attend the charter school of their choice passed through the Florida House Friday, expanding the options for student school choice in the state of Florida." "House Passes Bill Allowing Students to Cross County Lines for School."

Rubio on fire

"After launching his bid for the Republican presidential nomination earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is moving up in the national polls though his campaign team is cautioning supporters about his momentum."

The Rubio campaign tampered down expectations after Quinnipiac University released a poll on Thursday showing the Florida Republican atop the GOP field and running closest against former U.S .Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the heavy favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Rubio takes 15 percent of Republicans, with former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla., in second with 13 percent followed by Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., with 11 percent. No other Republican breaks into double digits.

The poll also has Clinton ahead of Rubio but the Republican running within the margin of error. Clinton leads 45 percent to 43 percent. The next closest Republican is U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., at 4 percent behind Clinton. Bush and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, do the worst against Clinton, losing by 7 percent each.

"Marco Rubio's Team Throws Cold Water on 2016 Poll Surge."

Clinton Staffs Up

"After launching her second bid for the White House earlier this month, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, heavy favorite for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, is starting to staff up in the Sunshine State -- bringing on board a native Floridian and seasoned political operative to lead the charge here." "Hillary Clinton Staffs Up for Grassroots Assault in Florida."

Lincoln rolls over

"Hillsborough Republicans will welcome former Gov. Jeb Bush back to Florida as keynote speaker for their June 19 Lincoln Day Dinner." "Jeb Bush to appear at Hillsborough’s Lincoln Day Dinner on June 19."